Saturday, August 27, 2016

Pennsylvania - Reading Seashore Lines Historical Society

In honor of being added as a link in the member's page of the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines website I will spend the next couple of blog posts showing B&W pictures I took in 1960. I have loved trains as long as I can remember and a Sunday School teacher (Ed Evans) further fueled that interest. In 1960 a friend and I decided to walk the tracks between my hometown (Woodbury Heights) and his (Westville). We were 13 and took pictures and notes. Here is the first batch.

We found this work equipment in Gloucester / Bellmawr and that is me illegally climbing all over it.

I must have liked to climb since I am now on a box car stored on the PRSL spurs just shy of Big Timber Creek. The building in the background used to be a power plant for the electrified commuter service that ran from Camden to Glassboro and beyond. The electric service ceased in 1948 but the power plant shut down in 1926 (the electric company provided cheaper power). The straight ahead spur used to feed coal to the power plant and the spur to the left used to go to a Buzby Bros. cement mixing plant.

This was the last Westville station (has been torn down). It was a small brick station that replaced a much larger station when a crossover road needed to be built in the area. In addition to the original station there was a passenger shelter on the other side of the tracks and a small freight house and spur behing the original station on the right. As you can see the middle track has already been removed and the area would be single tracked down the road.

This is the Baldwin Road Switcher that darn near ran over us. We were resting, sitting on a rail and happened to get up when this thing came barreling past us at high speed with no warning.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sun, Beaches, and Bathing Suits

or Resorts, Real Estate and Money

The September / October issue of N Scale Magazine has been shipped. It contains the first of three articles I submitted for publication. This one is a short history of the Pennsylvania - Reading Seashore Lines, southern New Jersey's only large railroad from its shotgun marriage in 1933 to its absorption into Conrail in 1976.

The first article is a lead in to the coverage of my 1950s PRSL model railroad in the Novemeber / December issue. That will be followed by an article outlining the steps necessary to set up operations sessions. Enjoy! ($6.75 at your local hobby shop or directly from www.nscalemagazine.com)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Progress at What Price?

Progress always seems to have a price on my layout. There were 2 areas of track work that have been giving me migraines. One has severe accessibility issues and I will need to wait until I can get a second pair of hands to fix it. The other was just inconvenient to reach but I could handle on my own. (Or so I thought) In one back corner I had a curve, on a grade, that would cause derailments on a long hopper trains with increasing frequency. (Micro-Train 2 bay hoppers are too light to start with and the older ones with pizza cutter wheels were even more touchy.)

Determined to put an end to this, I carefully removed the power plant and planned to remove a section of flex track to fix it. Naturally my "spasticity" exceeded my prepared work area and the Buzby Bros. cement mixing plant experienced an earthquake (floor drop) destroying two of the storage bins. Since the damage includes brass railings, the plant production will be crippled until I can secure talent (way beyond mine) to fix it. Oh well, progress always comes at a price on the PRSL!



Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Quiet Warrior

We just lost my father-in-law at the age of 92. He broke the big bone in his leg just trying to get up from his chair. Due to a deteriorating heart condition surgery was too big of a risk. Congestive heart failure began to affect his breathing and he passed July 7th surrounded by his family.

It was a privilege to know the man. He was a quiet, unassuming, solid, hard working man who would do anything for anyone in need. In his last lucid moments he was pleading that someone would continue his efforts to reach an unsaved family member because he desperately wanted to see the whole extended family together on Heaven’s shores.

The world is a sadder place without his smile, encouragement, and servant’s heart.


Roderick D. Kemmerer, 92, of Whitehall, died Thursday, July 7, 2016 at Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest. He was the husband of Irene E. (Mehrkam) Kemmerer to whom he was married 68 years last June 6. Born in Cementon, November 22, 1923, Roderick was the son of the late Harry W. and Irene E. (Semmel) Kemmerer. He faithfully and honorably served his country in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was employed as a cable splicer at the former Bell Telephone, in Bethlehem, for 42 years before retiring in 1989. Roderick was a member of the First Baptist Church of Allentown where he formerly served as a Trustee. Survivors: In addition to his loving wife, Irene; children, Barbara A. Balassaitis and her husband, Richard of Washington Township, NJ, Randy K. Kemmerer and his wife, Karen of Mount Laurel, NJ, Susan B. Void of Whitehall; brother, Nathaniel P. Kemmerer of Fayetteville, GA; grandchildren, Heather, Brad, Kevin, Christy, Courtney, Caroline, Jeremy, and Jason; fourteen great grandchildren; predeceased by a brother, Atwood R. Kemmerer. Services: Funeral services will be held 11:00 am. Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at the First Baptist Church of Allentown, 1808 North 19th Street, Allentown with the Rev. Joseph R. Velarde officiating. Family and friends may pay their respects from 9:30 - 11:00 am. Tuesday in the church. Interment with military honors will follow the service at Union Church Cemetery, Neffs. The Heintzelman Funeral Home, Inc., in Schnecksville is in charge of arrangements. Online expressions of sympathy may be recorded at www.heintzelmancares.com. Contributions: In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the First Baptist Church of Allentown c/o the funeral home, P.O. Box # 196, Schnecksville, PA 18078-01976. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/mcall/obituary.aspx?n=roderick-kemmerer&pid=180611302#sthash.z2pefeLa.dpuf

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mauck Chunk / Jim Thorpe Trains & Museums

Went to central Pennsylvania to see a close friend (Pastor Harry Wonderland) retire from the Pastorate. He served our church for 12 years before moving to Danville and serving for another 26 years. He and a Sunday School teacher (Ed Evans) I had as a child had the most Christian impact on my life. Both men were models of Christ-like love. When Harry left our local church he left a hole in my emotional heart. But seeing him again it felt like he had never been gone. At his retirement service non-church members (head of local school system) and national church leaders lauded his character and work ethic. Particularly telling was that someone had secretly taped his routine when he would arrive early Sunday mornings and stop and pray over each pew because he knew the people that sat there, their lives, and struggles. His children all grew up to love and serve the Lord in their own families and careers. The world could use a few million more men like him.

On the way home we stopped to see the beautiful railroad station at Mauck Chunk (Jim Thorpe), PA. Evidently the scenic trains only run on the weekends so we missed out on that but managed to get a few shots of the tourist train and station. I thought the engine was a GP30 but it was labeled as a GP39RN. It was initially a GP30 when the ATSF got it. It was rebuilt to GP38-2 standards and, as it says on the side of the engine, the R&N refers to it as a GP39RN's. It is not the same as the handful (23) of GP39's built new by EMD. Neither was it the same as EMD's GP39-2's which sold 200+ units.



While in Mauck Chunk / Jim Thorpe to see the station (and miss the train) we stopped in to the town’s main museum. We got to watch a video on the area’s history. They claim to have started the industrial revolution in America. Evidently the area was used to provide coal for Philadelphia after the British cut off supplies in the Revolutionary War. Canals were used to get it to Philadelphia (and then the Lehigh Valley Railroad took over the chores). Initially a steep incline (they called themselves the Swiss Alps of America) got the coal down to the river.

The museum also contains an N scale model railroad (non-running) of the area, railroadian items, period dresses and pianos, and models of the downtown station. An interesting $5 investment of time!


As a final note I loved my Father’s Day gift:

Friday, June 24, 2016

Cleaning the Garage – the Final Chapter

Having gone through 55 years of Model Railroader magazines, I now feel as though I’ve come full circle. Having skimmed to my last issue (July 2012), the magazine has returned to sub 100 pages (where it started) from its glory days of 200+ pages. The new century brought a reduction in N scale material. It seems like the return to full HO emphasis started when they kicked Hedinger onto special hobby industry projects and retired Jim Kelley. Russ Larson returned on a temporary basis and they moved a Classic Toy Trains editor in. They were followed by a group of editors that I never really emotionally clicked with (other than Dave Propp). A lot of material from their new favorite overseas author didn’t do much for me either.

As to the demise of N scale material, which came first the chicken or the egg? Did the arrival of multiple N Scale magazines drain their material (and audience) or did their lack of published N scale material lead to the creation of the N Scale magazines?

They did do an interesting series on having different modelers list their 10 favorite or most used railroad web sites. Here’s mine in no particular order:
Model Train Stuff http://www.modeltrainstuff.com/N-Scale-s/3.htm (but if it gets any slower, it’s getting dropped from the lsit)
Brooklyn Locomotive Works http://www.brooklynlocomotiveworks.com/
PRSL Historical Society http://www.prslhs.com/
N Scale Locomotive Encyclopedia http://www.spookshow.net/locos.html
Model Railroad Hobbiest Magazine http://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/

I was actually beginning to miss my Model Railroader subscription until my reading took me into the 21st century. Then I understood why I let my subscription lapse. I read it for the inspiration and the monthlies no longer gave me enough inspiring material. (I still do look forward to the yearly “Great Model Railroads” specials.)

My results: After going through 700+ Model Railroader (& N Scale)  magazines, I have kept 65 issues (+20 Trains magazines), ripped out 343 reference articles, and selected 52 additional issues that I will now try to get the local libraries to put in their 8-15 year old youth sections. I got excited about the hobby after running across a Model Railroader magazine, maybe a few carefully chosen (inspirational) issues will do the same for some other kids.

I have also managed to contribute to the physical enhancement of the local sanitation engineers by enabling them to cart off 11 cases of magazines.

More MR Humor (collected 102 of them also):
1.1  "Dad, how old must I be before I can play with my train?"
1.2  "To my brother I leave my railroad cap, to my wife I leave the car, and to my layout I leave the house."
2.1  "I told you that model airplane remote control unit would never work in an F7."
2.2  "The house is filled with his railroad, but I still have my garden."
3.2  -
1.1  -
1.2  "I wonder how often John Allen had to replace his mirrors?"
2.1  "Oh yeah, I meant to tell you about that. Stuff sets up kinda quick."
2.2  "A guy named Charlie built all the mountains...
then all of a sudden he just quit comin' around."

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Clear the Garage III

Continuing my journey through my 55 years of paper Model Railroader issues, I have now completed the 1990s.  The issue sizes got into the 200+ pages rather consistently and then began to trend down into the mid one hundreds. The issue prices have reached well into the $3+ range.

To celebrate their 65th anniversary year they did an interesting series publishing "Milestones in Model Railroading."
Jan: Al Kalmbach starting Model Railroader magazine (what did you expect?)
Feb: Creation of the NMRA (they did create very helpful standards)
March: John Allen’s Engine house
April: Frank Ellison’s “The Art of Model Railroading”
May: Postage Stamp Trains (made the public aware of N scale)
June: Astrac starting command control
July: The Styrene Revolution (I guess wood wasn’t good enough)
Aug: Japanese brass (as if I could afford it then (or now))
Sept: Kadee Magne-Matic couplers
Oct: The Evolution of Scale Models (only discussed O & HO scales)
Nov: Ground Foam for Realistic Scenery (goodbye zip texturing!)
Dec: The Beginnings and Growth of HO Scale (we get no love at all in N scale!)

I should be able to complete the garage task (first pass) next week (my subscription ended in 2011).

And MR humor (into the 70s and 80s and the last of H A Smith (my favorite)):
1.1  "Before I can extend the mainline, I have to file an environmental impact statement with my wife.”
1.2  “Well, whaddaya know! The little bubble was stuck!”
2.1  "Want to see the 0-4-0 I bought for this room’s new layout!”
2.2  “This baby will cost you $179.99 plus tax, new drapes for the living room, a new gown, and a night at a French restaurant.”
3.1  “That the last time I visit a layout that has 27 duckunders and walk around control.”
1.1   “Services suspended until my kitchen shelves are put up – by order – Household Authority”
1.2   “There’s been a derailment somewhere in this area.”
2.1   “I made the mistake of asking Fred if he could break away from his trains long enough to fix the refrigerator door.”
2.2   “Captain, you asked me to remind you when we were over Denver.”

Friday, June 3, 2016

Clear the Garage II

Continuing my journey through my 55 years of paper MR issues, I have run through the 60s and 70s. The magazine was pretty steady through the 60s. 70 to 90 pages and 50 cents a copy, then we hit the rapid increases in price and pages: $0.65, $0.75, $1, $1.25, $1.50. But now we had color and 150 to 200 pages per issue.

Layouts at the time were center islands. You could guess their size by counting the number of access hatches embedded in them. The Smith cartoons went from 1 or 2 per issue to occasional status and the humor seemed to have changed. (I thought maybe someone else was writing under his by-line.)

The MR humor continues:
 1.1  “It sure is good to run the trains again. During the steel strike, in order to be true to prototype, my pike had to be idle.”
1.2   Termites with Diner’s Club Card
2.1  “Couls it wait a minute, Mac? Our leader is in the middle of a tricky train movement.”
2.2  “Train 711 for New Ritus, Clunkneyville and Chicago arriving on Track One.”
3.1  “Something tells me this picture isn’t going to be too authentic.”
3.2  “You and your live steamers.”
1.1  “I still think for a starter, we ought to keep the wiring simple.”
1.2  “Have you seen the latest L&N color scheme? All Black!”
2.1  “I vote we take up the question of couplers tonight.”
2.2  
3.1  “All right! All right! So I’ll move it over a little.”
3.2  “It says, ‘This end up.’”

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Clear the Garage

One of my summer “train projects” will be to clear the garage so that I can get a car into it. One impediment is 55+ years of stored train magazines (mostly Model Railroader) dating back to 1958. What a trip down memory lane this is, since naturally I will want to scan them for keepers (both magazines and articles).



I get to revisit old “friends”: John Armstrong, Linn Wescott, Paul Larson, Whit Towers, Ed Ravenscroft, Allen McClanahan, John  Allen, Gordie Odegard, …  the great modelers who have gone before and paved the way.

Mantua Metals, Varney, Revell,… $0.89 box car kits ($2.49 RTR), 50 cent MR magazines (25 cents for back issues plus 25 cents shipping). Gem brass imports starting at $14.95, Penn Line $29 engine kits, Aristo Craft PRR position light signals for $2.75, …

Ravenscroft had his operating hump yard and a freight car forwarding system that used a small roulette wheel. The early magazines are extremely tattered (as you would expect from a 12 year old drooling dreamer).

Black and white photos and barren scenery (almost all western) was the norm. That’s why I fell in love with Carl Appel’s Norfolk and Ohio (“centerfold” November 1958). The spotlight seemed to have been on scratching building steam engines.

Anyway the biggest highlights have been from HA Smith’s train oriented cartoons. I’ll share them as I go. Enjoy.

1.1    “O gauger who models Pennsy equipment wishes to meet O gauger who models New York Central equipment. Object: merger.”
1.2    “In return for your ivory, we will trade precious gems that white man calls marker light jewels.”

2.1  “Put on your glasses, Frank, I’m over here!”

2.2  “Well, maybe if you had put up the screens when I asked you to …”
3.1  “You and your homemade diesel horn.”
3.2  “In Texas, even HO gauge is bigger.”

1.1  “Wow! What a realistic circus train – animal noises and everything!”
1.2  “I made the grass from an imported Persian rug, the water tower from a caviar tin, and the marker lights from an old diamond stick pin.”

2.1  “Psst, watch out for that witch doctor.”

2.2  “By doing research on prototype roads, I discovered over 99 per cent of them prefer point to point layouts.”
3.1  “This trackwork happens to be true to the prototype of the Bilgewater and Eastern, a little known line which went bankrupt in 1857 after 26 spectacular accidents.”
3.2  “I was lucky to find such a nice dry basement.”


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Op Session 6

Our 6th Operations Session took place yesterday (May 21) and we once again completed a full freight schedule. We were a bit rusty (my part-time tax prep job interferes with scheduling op sessions for about 6 months) but we will get back into the swing of things.

My wife wanted to know what we were laughing about in the loft for 4 hours, so it was a good time together. We were missing a key player (Gene) but we muddled happily along to completion.

The demerit list will be completed when I find the yard bum that knocked the coaling tower off its foundations and derailed all 4 of the steam engines parked under it.

Never knew yard work was such fun!

A PC Geep on a 1950s PRSL layout

Where did you say you last saw that train?
Hmm, pushing 2 tank cars and a cabin into an icing facility? Careful!
Rogue GP40 in staging